Students from Mount St. Joseph University’s Student Nurse Association (SNA) learned some valuable lessons this summer that weren’t taught in clinical rotations or classroom discussions.
Earlier this year, the student group decided to embark on their first mission trip to help others through Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection (DOOR), a non-profit group that places volunteers in communities that need help. Ten Mount nursing students and their faculty advisor traveled to Atlanta which is among the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. for their rate of homelessness. DOOR aims to decrease the rate of homelessness through volunteering time and resources to the homeless population.
The first night the team fixed meals for several homeless individuals who were located a block away. The SNA members walked the streets with DOOR, meeting and talking with those living on the streets. “The students learned their first lesson that night from a frequent visitor who said, ‘We are not scary; we don’t want to hurt anyone. We just want to be talked to, just like you,’” said Kristin Clephane, a Mount nursing instructor and faculty advisor for SNA. “He also said a quote we kept reminding ourselves throughout the week, ‘If you stay in your square and I stay in mine and we never cross our squares, then nothing will ever change.’”
The SNA wanted the trip to consist of some time teaching youth about their health, using their nursing interest as students, said Clephane. “I teach pediatric nursing and health assessment and every semester, our students complete projects geared toward teaching a population about a relevant health issue in pediatric health, such as dental caries, infection, hand washing, nutrition, and more. I thought what better way for these students to impact the community than by using their projects to teach kids about why we take temperatures, blood pressure and eating well, and how to prevent cavities. We are grateful a Mount alumna (Caitlin Cox, a 2016 MSN graduate) donated toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss to each child.”
“This trip reinforced to me why I want to be a nurse and how excited I am to help people,” said Gentry Gabbard, a senior nursing student from Norwood. “This trip brought me the joy of seeing the faces of so many people—both children and adults—who were just happy we were there to help them and talk to them.”
Jennifer Rodgers, a senior nursing student from Delhi, said, “I had the privilege of teaching children in an after school program what blood pressure is, the importance of it, and how to use a stethoscope. We then used blood pressure cuffs to take their blood pressure, and let the kids find and listen to our heartbeats and their own. The joy and excitement that was evident on their faces taught me how something so simple and small can touch someone's life.”
The team also helped homeless at several soup kitchens around Atlanta. They helped as waiters and waitresses at one innovative soup kitchen that serves women and children “restaurant style” instead of filling their plates down an assembly line. A visit to another soup kitchen allowed them to help prepare the meal, clean and organize the kitchen and prepare the meals for the upcoming day. The students also worked on an urban farm that looks for innovative ways of combating poverty and homelessness, and packed boxes of donated medical supplies to be shipped to Ecuador.
“The students learned that being ‘human’ and taking the time to merely have a conversation with those in need can make a change, even a small one, in someone’s life,” Clephane said. “These small changes over time can lead to eventually improving the health of our nation.”
Clephane said the student nursing group hopes to serve through another mission trip next year, possibly in either Miami or Chicago.